I love a strange bird. He dislikes bacon, strawberries, popsicles, hollandaise, whip cream, stone fruits, pears, apples, and mushrooms. He also dislikes blue jeans, the internet, and suntans preferring instead tailored slacks, Romantic poetry, and pallor. Not wanting to misrepresent him or engage in hyperbole, I asked, “So, do you really hate all stone fruits?”
“You know peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums…fruit with a pit, a stone.”
“Oh. Yeah, I’ve heard that term before. My grandmother uses that kind of talk… and yes, I hate all of the things you just mentioned.”
“And I’m not misrepresenting you when I say you dislike blue jeans, the internet, and suntans?”
“No. I hate all of those things too. This is good, that you’re writing this. The internet should know that I exist. That I’m out there. And that I threaten to destroy it.”
“Hahaha,” I thought. “He hates all the things!” Alas, he wouldn’t get the joke. So, Internet, you stand warned.
For all his aversions, he loves kale, eggs in any form, stinging nettles, sweet potatoes, pungent cheeses, and blueberries. He very much likes blueberries, regarding them as the superlative berry. I, however, disagree. I don’t dislike blueberries per se, but I’ve always found them to be a bit of a bore. I’m a raspberry sort of girl, yet I turn down the corner of every blueberry recipe I read. This collection of blueberry tarts, pies, galettes, ice creams, muffins, scones, preserves, and cakes dwarfs my collection of raspberry recipes because, you see, they are a collection of love songs, mine being a kitchen sort of love: a milk spill tea leaf affection, dusky blue and sweet.
Food dislikes and likes have been a source of discord, real discord, in previous relationships. I had a hard time abiding picky or what I regarded as pedestrian eaters. One man preferred fast food hamburgers and chicken fingers to all other foods, and another was always wanting quite literally meat and potatoes, yet another had a penchant for Lean Cuisine and ordering chicken teriyaki when we went out for sushi. All of this drove me to very genuine frustration. Now, of course, I know that it wasn’t their food preferences that bothered me. We were ill suited, and my love was the selfish sort that resents giving, conceding, and compromise of any sort. Even the sort of compromise that is going for Thai when I want Italian.
In telling contrast, I haven’t cooked a mushroom since we began seeing one another, I rarely fry bacon, and I’ve made a blueberry tart today. And I haven’t resented any of it, not at all. Bacon and strawberries are obvious sacrifices, but it should be noted that I absolutely adore mushrooms. Sautéed in butter and wine, they were a childhood favorite, an early sign of culinary tendencies. This is how I know my sentiments are real: eschewing mushrooms, bacon, and strawberries and amassing a collection of blueberry recipes without vexation.
Homemade ricotta leftover from the weekend was, I knew, starred to become a tart filling, as I love nothing more than whole milk ricotta with ribbons of sourwood honey swirled in it. I eat it like ice cream with a spoon. After considering various flavor combinations I decided to make a ricotta tart with honey, lemon, and lavender, all of it topped with fresh blueberries. I tried to write a song once, I guess it was a love song. It began with the lyric “lavender and honey, loss and misery…” I never got any further than that. I’m not, it turns out, a songstress. Most of my relationships prior didn’t get much further than that either. I have been, until now, unlucky in love. I suppose that makes me most especially grateful, leading me, starry-eyed, to effusively bake with blueberries. I leave you with my version of a love song: bursts of violet fruit & bright citrus with floral whorls of honeyed lavender in curds of creamy homemade ricotta punctuated by buttery flakes of tender pastry crust.
After he ate it, he praised me: “You did a good *%#!ing job, woman. Well done, you.” Oh, love.
The recipe. I used Thomas Keller’s Buttery Pastry Shell as my base. I’m obsessed with it. I had, shall we say…difficulties with pie crusts when I first attempted them. This was the first crust I was successful with and it’s so good for both savory and sweet fillings that I use it for everything. You make it in a stand mixer. I know, right? Stupid easy. Buttery. Flaky. I mean, it’s Thomas Keller. I used this recipe to make the ricotta cheese.
Ricotta & Blueberry Tart with Honey, Lemon, and Lavender
•Thomas Keller’s Buttery Pastry Crust, rolled out to fit your pan (I use a removable bottom tart pan), scraps saved for another use
• 1 cup homemade wholemilk ricotta (or store bought)
•1/4 cup goat cheese
•1/4 cup cream cheese
•2 tsp ground dried lavender
•4-5 Tbsp honey (sweeten to your taste)
•juice of half a lemon
•zest of half a lemon
•1 pint fresh blueberries (you could use more if you wanted, it’s just what I had)
Preheat oven to 325º.
Fully bake your crust: bake for 30-40 minutes with pie weights in it (I class it up with aluminum foil filled with dries beans/rice that I keep in a garbage bag in my pantry…). Remove weights and continue to bake until golden brown, about another ten minutes. It may take longer.
Remove and let shell cool fully on a rack. While the shell cools mix all of the ingredients except the blueberries in a mixing bowl to combine fully. Taste and adjust to your liking. Fill shell with the cheese mixture, top with fresh blueberries, and dust with powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature or chilled.